Thursday, June 30, 2011

For Makelesi Taulepa: Fefine mei Ofu (my father's mother) - Karlo Mila

For Makelesi Taulepa: Fefine mei Ofu (my father's mother)
- Karlo Mila

and your giving
you gave to the church
and gave and gave
you gave our land
you gave money
you gave your voice in song
you gave your time in prayer

you gave to the neighbours
you loved more than thyself
you gave and gave
the best of what we had
and they gave us
their rotting leftovers

you spent your lifetime
giving and smacking
strapping and praying
laughing and cooking
cleaning and working

you thought I was spoiled
because at five
I couldn't hand-wash my own clothes
I thought you were strange
because at sixty
you didn't know
that marmite goes on top of butter
not under it

my own father
was afraid of you
and your holiness

that you wore
like a ta'ovala
tied so tight
to your body

my father
was afarid of you
and your giving

you gave away
until you had nothing
nothing but the honour of your giving
and in your death
that became everything

at your putu
it were as if a flock of flying foxes
throbbed black in the sky in the sunlight
the horizon swimming in black satins
a town in mourning
for the woman who had only
what she gave away

I wonder grandmother
will you in your meekness
inherit the earth
as the church inherited ours?

I am a ta'ahine hala tu'i
but you will always be
a fefine mei Ofu
you and your gifts
are in my blood

within you
was the beginning
of the best of us

Karlo Mila is of Tongan, Palangi and Samoan descent. She was born in Rotorua, grew up in Palmerston North and now lives and works in Auckland. She has had poetry published in Whetu Moana, Best New Zealand Poems 2003, Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of Fusion Poetry, the Listener and Coffee and Coconuts. Karlo performs live poetry regularly.

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